March 14, 2012

Safety Concerns at VA Clinic After Nearly $1 Million in Payouts for 8 Patient Deaths

by Levin & Perconti

The Republic reported this weekend on new concerns about chronic medical malpractice that are being lobbed at a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs clinic after news surfaced about a series of mistreatment. According to publically available records, the U.S. VA Department paid out nearly $1 million over a four year time period to settle claims of medical malpractice against a single facility lobbed by family members in at least eight cases where patients died. That does not count two more pending cases which make similar accusations of death caused by malpractice. Overall, there have been seventy two malpractice-related legal claims filed against this single veteran’s hospital in the last five years.

Our Illinois medical malpractice attorneys know that it is easy to get caught up in the numbers of claims filed. However, it is important not to fail to discuss the individual stories behind each claim. At the end of the day malpractice is not about numbers but families. For example, one of the claims was filed by a wife after the death of her husband. She explains that her life changed forever when she got a call in the middle of the night from the hospital. She thought it was an early morning call from her husband. Instead, it was from his doctor saying that her husband had died. The death was the result of an internal hemorrhage from a liver biopsy that had been performed earlier in the day. Allegations claim that the man had been on too much blood thinner both before and after the procedure which led to his death. In addition, records indicate that nurses did not properly check the man’s vital signs before his death. This was in direct conflict with the caregiving orders that they had been provided.

Record-keeping incompetence also led to unnecessary heartache for the family. The wife explained that the hospital did not have the family’s proper phone number so “when they knew he was dying, they didn’t get ahold of [the family] so [they] could go in and see him before he died.”

This case is just one of the dozens of similar stories of misconduct alleged against this one facility. For example, the hospital paid $275,000 to settle a claim by one patient whose hip infection was not timely diagnosed resulting in his death. In another case the hospital’s pharmacy apparently dispensed an incorrect dose of a chemotherapy drug leading to the death of the patient.

Each Chicago medical malpractice lawyer at our firm often explains that medical malpractice cases frequently reveal trends. The most negligent hospitals or most dangerous doctors often have many different suits filed against them. This is one of the ways that the civil justice system helps to provide crucial information to medical consumers. Patients have little ability to properly gauge the quality of services provided by any medical providers unless they have some markers to compare. Each patient who has not received adequate care who comes forward helps in this sunshine process by adding their case to the overall information available about these facilities and caregivers. That is why we continue to urge all local residents to visit with a legal professional if they suspect they or a loved one was hurt by mistreatment by medical teams.

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